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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reads contracts histories as discussions about capitalism. What do histories tell us about capitalism? What kind of concerns do they betray about it? It presents a case study of Britain, the first capitalist nation, in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It argues that histories of contracts of this era, viewed as a whole, address capitalism within the established modes of political-economic debate: origins—when it emerged, a question intertwined with determining what elements were fundamental to capitalism; and distribution—questions of economic, social, and cultural equality in capitalism. The chapter separates and simplifies these themes to introduce existing work and highlight thick points of controversy and research. The second part moves beyond these concerns, and offers two other perspectives on contracts and capitalism: embodiment and nationalism.

Keywords: legal history, contracts, capitalism, origins, distribution, embodiment, nationalism

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